Becky Donnelly talks Rainbow Laces

30th November 2020

‘I’ve felt accepted from the moment I joined Cheltenham’

– Becky Donnelly

By Danyal Khan.

Cheltenham Town Ladies winger Becky Donnelly has praised the club for how accepted she has felt from day one, as the club take part in the national Rainbow Laces campaign.

The Rainbow Laces campaign was set up with the aim to make sport everyone’s game.

Statistics from Stonewall, such as ‘one in eight LGBT people (12 per cent) avoid participating in sports groups because of fear of discrimination and harassment’ demonstrate the reason for campaigns like Rainbow Laces being set up.

“The rainbow laces campaign is a great moment for football across the country to show unity against homophobia” Donnelly said. “It also reminds people that everyone in the LGBT community is welcome in football.”

The 20-year-old signed for the club a couple of seasons ago adding an attacking threat to the club’s Development Team, and re-joined The Robinesses back in January. And since re-joining, the forward player has admitted to feeling welcomed and accepted from day one.

“I’ve felt accepted from the moment I joined CTLFC, everyone was so welcoming and they’re a great group of girls.

“I haven’t had to worry about what anyone would think about me being who I am.”

Another statistic from Stonewall which is 17 per cent of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people have experienced and 49 per cent have witnessed homophobia or transphobia in sport. Thankfully however, Donnelly hasn’t been a victim of much homophobia in her lifetime.

But if she ever fell victim to it, the winger admitted that it would have a big impact on her.

She said: “I’ve been very lucky to experience very little homophobia in my life but I know that my confidence would take a hit.

“I think if I did experience any, on or off the field, I’d try and remind myself that it’s them that has a problem and are uneducated and to try and brush it off as much as possible.”

There are many role models in the women’s game to lead the way for LGBTQ+ inclusivity at the highest level.

Pernille Harder, Vivianne Miedema and Sam Kerr are a few players playing at the top level in English football who are representing the LGBTQ+ community in the right way.

“I don’t have any specific role models, but every sporting player that has come out helps to pave the way for the next generation to come through into an easier and more welcoming environment,” Donnelly commented.

“I grew up in football with a lot of older players being out and comfortable with it and all the teams I’ve been at have been supportive of them.”

In comparison to the men’s game, it is clear that the women’s game is far ahead of the men’s game in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusivity at all levels.

The last player to come out in the top four flights of English football was the late Justin Fashanu in the 1990’s.

More recently, players either come out after they retire like Thomas Hitzlsperger and James Beattie, or they move on to other countries like Robbie Rodgers, once of Leeds United, who came out before making a move to the United States to play for LA Galaxy in his native California.

Courtesy of Bart Day

When asked why the men’s game seems so far behind in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusivity, Donnelly pointed to stereotypes as the main reason.

“In my opinion, there are a lot more stereotypes present in the male game that stem from people not being educated.

“In the women’s game, being LGBT is a lot more normalised. In the men’s you’d feel a bigger fear of being ostracized.

“Also, in the women’s game there are professionals to look up to which show its okay but in the men’s that’s not so much the case.”

When looking ahead to the future of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in football, the forward hopes that a player’s sexuality won’t even be news or a talking point.

“I think football is becoming more inclusive, even if it’s slower than we’d like,” Donnelly said. “The more clubs that come out and are supportive of the LGBT community, the quicker the change will happen.”

She went on to add: “Hopefully one day someone’s sexuality won’t matter at all but the work has to continue, with campaigns like rainbow laces.”

Rainbow Laces in 2020 is being celebrated between November 26 and December 13 with Rainbow Laces Day itself falling on December 9.

D2 Interactive